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Favorite shrub for part shade?

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6/MA (My Page) on
Sun, Oct 8, 06 at 10:38

Do you have a favorite shrub that performs well in part shade? I have morning sun/afternoon shade and looking to add a few shrubs this fall/next spring.

Thanks :-)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

You question is very broad, you should give more parameters:
deciduous or evergreen, height, width, soil composition and water availability, purpose(screening, flowering, interest in particular time of the year etc), etc.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Hello again...yes, I left the question broad to see what other people considered their favorite shrub. I thought it might be another way of getting some ideas of shrubs to consider. I do have different conditions here and there, so thought there might be one that I could find a way to fit in the yard.

My focus though, is a border I am trying to finish planting. It is along my back lot line that I started last spring. We ripped out a long 100ft of old overgrown shrubs, by hand with shovels.

The part of the border I am working on right now, is about 40ft by 16ft @ it's widest point. It backs up to a post and rail fence that is about 4ft high. Half of the area is under the dripline of a maple tree. I have neighbors behind me that I want to screen out but I want to keep an open feeling as much as possible too. The canopy is fairly high and open. The first set of branches is about 8ft off the ground. This area has morning sun, some parts until 11am. The soil is clay/loam with a ph of 6.4. I think it is fairly dry with all the tree roots around. There are also 2 silver maples in the neighbor's yard too.

In the darkest corner, I added some perennials under the tree, variegated and non variegated solomon's seal, heuchera, epimedium, etc., which are all doing great. Then on the edge just outside the dripline, I added clethra 'Hummingbird', Oakleaf Hydrangea, Sutherland's Gold sambucus, and a viburnum. I put a Honeysuckle along the post and rail fence and a native Clematis, Virgin's Bower. I added some Japanese Painted Ferns/Hellebores/Hardy geraniums/Heuchera/Hosta/bulbs and a few more perennials. It all sounded so good, but so far, I am not pleased with it completely. It needs something else.

The Hydrangea did not do well it's first winter and died back to the ground. I did prune it all the way back of necessity and it came back beautifully. It has 3 strong branches and is at least 3ft tall right now and looking healthy.
The Sambucus was my first attempt with one, and was so pretty in the spring, but looked more like a Japanese maple the rest of the season and not what I expected.
The Viburnum is healthy but nondescript all season and hoping it will redeem itself in the fall. The color was good last year.
The Virgin's Bower died out on me in the dry summer we had last year.
The Honeysuckle was eaten by winter moth caterpillars and although it survived, it never really looked good or grew much the rest of the year.
The Clethra is doing great. It was late to leaf out in the spring, but it finally filled in well and bloomed and right now it looks very healthy and dense.

The great amount of rain we had this year, helped my dry zone. Although I know I can't count on that every year. I planned to lay down soaker hoses.

I want to add some evergreens right up against the fence for a screen. The problem is there isn't much room and half of the planting area would be under the maple. I would also need something that wouldn't grow up into the tree. So about 6ft tops under the tree. It would be pretty deep shade back there and heavy root zone.

I thought of maybe an ilex glabra, or other holly or a taxus. I have had a couple of hollies for a few years in another dark corner and they have barely grown although they look healthy enough. Plus taxus grows so slow. I have a buxus in the front yard that I wanted to move, and wondered if that could serve in that position, but it is no more than 4ft tall and has been growing more than 5 years already.

In the rest of the bed, I just need a few more things. I think a variegated shrub and a few dwarf shrubs in the front of the border, maybe. Maybe one more evergreen behind the bulk of the deciduous shrubs for a layered look.

I know, you are sorry you asked. LOL


RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

So, let's just skip the help with the border and go back to the original question...

Do you have a shrub in your yard that is in part shade and you just love it?


RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Got it.
I have a border with a similar lighting and various moisture conditions (from seasonally wet to outright dry).
Border is about 300' long and from 20 to 50' wide.
In no particular order here is the list of the shrubs/small trees in this border ( many are in multiples and there are many different cultivars of the same species):
-evergreen azalea,
-deciduous azalea,
-clethra alnifolia,
-clethra barbinervis,
-hydrangea serrata/macrophylla,
-hydrangea arborescens,
-hydrangea paniculata,
-hydrangea quercifolia,
-picea pungens glauca(dwarf),
-aesculus parviflora (bottlebrush buckeye),
-ilex meserveae,
-cornus alba,
-mahonia bealei,
-corylus avellana 'Contorta',
-chamaecyparis obtusa,
-chamaecyparis picifera,
-juniperus squamata,
-salix integra,
-abies koreana,
-prunus laurocerasus (cherry laurel),
-picea omorika (dwarf),
-camellia (this year experiment).
Might forgot something, but you have an idea, I hope.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?/

Went outside to refresh my memory and 'found' also,
-euonymus fortunei,
-euonymus japonicus,
-abelia grandiflora,
-hydrangea petiolaris,
-schizophragma hydrangeoides,
-sorbaria sorbifolia (Ural false spirea).

"Do you have a shrub in your yard that is in part shade and you just love it? "

...and you think that I could single just one from the list?
All of them have their own usefull attributes in a different times of the year and I'm rather looking for the succession of interests than for the one big show, otherwise there will be only broadleaf evergreens.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

What a wonderful space you have ego, and sounds like you are filling it up with some great material. I also want to have something pretty to look at as much of the time as possible. I have been considering a number of the names you listed, kerria, a rhodie pjm, native azaleas, I have hydrangeas in another location. the fothergilla, Some of these I will google, as I am unfamiliar with them.

I will have an easy time finding something I like for the area outside the canopy of the one maple in that border, it is under the canopy that I am having a hard time with. The tree roots are more a problem than the shade, and both combined are awful. The small perennials do well there, but I really need to screen along the fence that runs right behind the tree trunk and probably 15 ft of it is under the canopy.

Have you grown any shrubs or tall perennials under the canopy of a tree? If not, how did you handle that area?

Thanks for all your help. I love your list. Has your camellia gone through a winter yet?

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Re: Camellia. It was planted this year and I have no clue how it will winter over, but...I have a backup plant in a pot which will be overwintered in my equivalent of the cold frame.
Re: shrubs under tree canopy and in a root zone.
Not an easy task, but I found the way, I think.
I'll give more details when I'll have time to write a detailed(lenghty) post.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Daphne is a nice plant that seems to appreciate afternoon shade. I've got three 'Carol Macke' growing on the east side my house that were planted back in 2003. Easy to grow and problem free for me, they have great foliage and deliciously scented flowers.

I also second the Clethra nomination. My Ruby Spice tend to die back every winter, which of course pretty much eliminates flowering. However, in your climate and in a shady site I'd think they would do well. In fact, I'm glad you brought this up as I think I'll plan on moving mine from the north side of garage to east side of house this spring.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Thanks ego, great experiment with the camilla, to have a second one wintering in a cold frame. Will be interested to hear how it goes. Looking forward to your tips on planting under the tree. :-)

I was looking at the daphne and had them on my list until I read that the flowers and foliage are poisonous. We tried a datura and a brugs in the yard this summer, which are poisonous and didn't enjoy having to think about it.

Wow, you are in zone 4. I hope you find a location that will be easier on your clethra. I was thinking of getting that Ruby Spice.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

  • Posted by basic z4A WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 10, 06 at 10:43


A couple of other natives that do well in shade would be Dirca palustris and Calycanthus floridus. Dirca has a tree-like habit, but will usually stay under 6'. It won't be easy to find, but well worth tracking down. My C. f. 'Athens' has done quite well and flowers throughout summer. These seem to be easy to grow and are not bothered by much of anything in my experience.

Here's spring, summer and fall pics of the Dirca.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

  • Posted by phyl345 chicagolandz.5 (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 10, 06 at 13:46

hi basic....what an INTERESTING plant...did your local nursery carry them???

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

  • Posted by basic z4A WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 10, 06 at 17:38

No, I actually bought it at a nursery outside of Chicago. Someone who no longer visits this forum told me about it. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of the nursery right at this moment. It's been three years and I've had no contact with them since. I think its just outside of St Charles. If you throw some names at me I'll remember it. That's the best I can do for now.


RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Thanks Bob for the photos. Very different looking shrub. Never heard of it before. I am familiar with the Calycanthus. It is fragrant isn't it?

Thanks :-)

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

maybe it was Tecza & Sons Nursery in South Elgin?

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

I'll answer Prairiemoon's original question, though like George, I have a tough time choosing favorites for my part shade (or any other ) plants. I have evergreen Rhodies Roseum Elegans, PJM, PJM Checkmate (short), and Olga Mezzit (sp?), Nova Zembla, and a white chinoides(?). I have several deciduous rhodies that turn pretty colors in the fall as well as having late spring to summer flowers: R. Golden showers, Luce's Double, and Narcissiflora. I have Annabelle and "Endless Summer" hydrangeas and Fothergilla "Mt. Airy." I have a vernal witchhazel and several viburnums: Blue Muffin I haven't made my mind up on, viburnum nudum (cassinoides) and dentatum grow wild and are large but lovely shrubs. Cornus alternifolia is a small tree or large shrub and is a wonderful 4 season plant with flowers, berries, fall color and great branch structure. Highbush blueberry grows wild along the edge of my woods in half-day sun with nice spring flowers and fall color. I have a spirea that blooms fine in bright more-than-half-day shade, though I don't remember the variety (about 3.5 feet high with pink flowers.) My Ruby Spice clethra has done well in full shade to full sun and from normal to very wet conditions in regular soil to damp sandy soil. Another one that likes it wet and doesn't mind some shade is deciduous Rododendron viscosum, swamp rhododendron.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

  • Posted by basic z4A WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 11, 06 at 21:08

Mmmm, I don't think that was it. Seems to me it might have had the word "bluff" in it. I'm really sorry, but the synapses aren't firing well these days.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

For some very healthful fruit, you could grow some Aronia, I have Viking. Or for evergreen with fragrant flowers, Elaeagnus x ebbingei, silverberry, either variegated or the silvery form. I also like Abelias. The regular and purple flowered one Edward Goucher get pretty tall, 5', but the variegated one has been very short for me.

RE: Favorite shrub for part shade?

Thanks for the continued responses. I am just itching to go shopping and add some new shrubs to my borders, but haven't been able to get to it. Looks like I will have to wait until the spring. All those fall sales I missed. *sigh*

Thanks for helping me make my shopping list. LOVED all the suggestions and the photos were great!


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